This week I read Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford to a few speech groups. It is beautifully illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska.
At first I was hesitant to read it to the kindergarteners. I thought they might not be ready for such an abstract concept but I needn’t have worried. Before reading, I asked the kids if they knew what “infinity” meant. They didn’t. But by the end of the book, they had a pretty good idea.
The story begins,
“The night I got my new red shoes, I couldn’t wait to wear them to school. I was too excited to sleep, so I went outside and sat on the lawn. When I looked up, I shivered. The sky seemed so huge and cold.
How many stars were in the sky? A million? A billion? Maybe the number was as big as infinity.”
Uma, the contemplative child with the new red shoes, grappled with this concept and looked for enlightenment by asking her friends, grandmother, and teachers how they imagined infinity. Her friend Charlie told her infinity is “a giant number that keeps growing bigger and bigger forever.” After hearing from the others, Uma realized something. “It was hard to talk about infinity without talking about ‘forever.’” She started to wonder what she’d like to do forever and came up with a lot of possibilities like having recess forever, staying eight years old forever, or licking an ice-cream cone forever. My students got rather excited about some of those possibilities and added a few of their own.
When I asked the kids what they thought about infinity, Liam said, “If you ate infinity potatoes, you would get bigger and bigger forever.”
Enrique said, “Infinity minutes is a long, long, long, long, long time.”
Joden wanted to know, “What’s infinity plus infinity?” (I’ll have to consult a mathematician on that one.)
Zayd asked, “Does Googol come before infinity?” And to think I was worried about introducing this complex concept to my students!
Toward the end of the story, when Uma spoke of her grandmother she said,
“Right then I knew – my love for her was as big as . . .”
I didn’t need to finish the sentence. The kids finished it for me.
Afterward, Liam said, “Do you know how big LOVE is? It’s as big as this.” He spread his arms out in front of him, edging them wider and wider, until he reached around his back and clasped his hands together, leaving all of infinity outside his circled body, snug in a cocoon of unending love. Liam has great insight for a five-year-old. Actually, I’d say he has great insight for one of any age. He is beginning to grasp the concept of infinity and something more besides.